Rank and file workers should use the campaign to get organised
By a CWU Rep
In response to the outpouring of workers’ anger following the announcement of a rotten agreement between Royal Mail and the postal CWU, rank and file postal workers and reps have launched a campaign to vote no.
For the first couple of weeks, CWU leaders Dave Ward and Andy Furey went quiet, with none of the usual video updates despite the anger and confusion over the deal. Memes started circulating about sending a search party to find them!
But they aren’t missing in action, they’re working to deliver a “yes” vote. The ballot timetable set by the leadership has given them a five week period to build support for the deal before voting commences. This is being done behind the backs of the members, with rounds of closed meetings (no livestreams here!) to persuade each layer of the union hierarchy to sell the deal to the members – first regional div reps, then branch officials, then full-time area reps. As many members have commented online, if it was a good deal they wouldn’t have to work so hard to sell it!
Now with a consensus built around the sell-out, they are tackling workplace reps in a round of regional meetings. This is meant to solder the final link in the chain connecting the leadership to the shopfloor, conveying the message “vote yes” to union members.
No let up on bosses’ side
Besides the deal itself, there is one massive problem for them. Royal Mail managers have continued their offensive on the shopfloor, imposing revisions, cutting jobs, moving workers to other offices, and dictating later finish times. These are not rogue managers but coordinated by the regional directors or “RoDs”, with the complicity of the board – the very people who agreed this deal with the union. The struggle continues in Royal Mail, but only waged on one side – theirs!
Unbelievably, the company is even now continuing to dismiss workers on trumped up charges. About 400 reps and members have been suspended or dismissed during the dispute, an unprecedented number of victimisations. CWU leaders should demand these are halted and reversed, or pull out of the deal. Instead, the deal trusts the fate of these workers to an independent review by rightwing judge Lord Falconer, a pal of Tony Blair’s who collaborated with Thatcher against the miners’ strike and has voted for Tory anti-union laws since. No wonder Royal Mail has approved him!
As a result, thousands of postal workers have vowed to “vote no”. This is especially true of delivery offices, where the majority of the CWU membership are based, and the hardest hit by the deal’s provisions. However, it also sells out the pay, terms and conditions of all postal and Parcelforce workers, along with the strength of the union itself by agreeing a two-tier workforce.
In response to this unrelenting backlash against the deal, the CWU tops have panicked. They announced at the first regional reps’ meeting in York on 10 May that they are putting the ballot back a week, to 25 May, in order to cobble together a joint statement with Royal Mail about putting a stop to the local dictat and revisions.
This is clearly driven by hopes of getting a yes vote. The fact is, since the 2nd March joint statement, managers were supposed to be agreeing all revision activity with reps, yet nothing changed on the shop floor and managers continued to impose revisions. What was the response of our leaders? To keep negotiating, breaking deadline after deadline. Worse, where reps have put in “stage 3” (national) disagreements over imposed changes, they claim that these have been ignored by the union leadership, just like the many “rule 13” requests for local strike ballots to fight victimisations. In other cases officials have agreed the cuts over the heads of workplace reps.
Given the black hole in the company’s finances – Royal Mail is expected to post a £400 million annual loss this week – the shopfloor pressure seems unlikely to let up. This will be compounded by the cuts and changes imposed by the deal itself, and the joint working groups of officials and management it will set up – something workers who are thinking of voting yes to the deal should consider.
Build a rank and file ‘no’ vote campaign
The two reps meetings so far (York and Birmingham) saw a steady stream of delivery office reps asking hard hitting questions on the deal, explaining that their members plan to vote no, and often stating that they will too.
Where gate or members meetings are held to push the deal, workers and reps should loudly reject it, and campaign for no in the workplace and their local branches. Thanks to the pressure of members and mobilisations by reps, several branches have either called for a no vote (South Central and Glasgow) or refused to recommend the deal (South Wales and Leeds).
If there is a no vote, the union may be able to get some concessions from Royal Mail, but these are unlikely to be major. The real alternative to this deal is to re-start the strike. To win, we would need an effective plan to escalate to all out, alongside building solidarity committees to support us, as Workers Power has argued from the beginning of this dispute.
Now is the time to campaign for renationalisation of Royal Mail, which is CWU policy, not allow the bosses to use the threat of bankruptcy to blackmail us.
It is understandable that many workers will not trust the current leadership to lead anything at all after their experience of the past year: 18 days of lost pay, 400 suspended or dismissed, the strike dropped for five months, and the rotten agreement. But a rank and file led campaign that draws in workers and reps, successfully builds support for a no vote, and establishes a network across the country to do so, could rebuild the energy, determination and workplace organisation needed for the fight.
Looking further, a no vote campaign even if ultimately unsuccessful, could develop a rank and file movement to bring the union under workers control, based on immediate recallability and a skilled workers wage for all officials, and strike committees built at the base to recreate bastions of union power from below, ensuring that “the members decide, the officials provide”.
That would prepare us not only to fight and win, but to develop a new leadership out of the militants brought to the fore by the dispute, one connected to the roots of the union in the workplace.
To share your feedback and experiences, or contact us for more information about Workers Power, please contact us at https://workerspower.uk/contact/.
You can find the postal workers say no campaign online here Postal Workers Say Vote No